My Mother had a few collections, one of which was Belleek China, specifically the shell pieces. Belleek was (and still is) made in Ireland from the mid 19th Century and they produced a very fine, nearly translucent bone china, some of which was moulded into extremely beautiful and fine pieces of china that incorporated coral and shells. 



Belleek used beautiful lustre glazes in their pieces - usually on the inside of the shells, or to highlight a contrast form, such as a branch of coral used as a handle.


As with any china, there are degrees of desirability relating to age - Belleek has a mark underneath, Green or blue is a recently made piece, whereas a Black mark is older and therefore more valuable.




To find a complete teaset these days would be quite extrodinary - the nature of the china, it's fineness and delicacy means that you can generally only find parts of tea sets, but even so, the beauty of the individual pieces make them highly collectible.







Shells have always inspired design. There was a particular mania for them during the Regency period, and you can see that in their use of shell motifs commonly found on furniture. Beautiful shell grottos or follies were often constructed in the grounds of stately homes at this time, as well as those examples of shell grottos such as the mysterious one found in Margate in Kent in 1836, pictured below




 I've always loved shells, and used to spend many hours at our beach house in my childhood collecting and categorising shells with my mother in the long Summer holidays, and these memories are quite happily intertwined with her china collection as almost one and the same. In a similar way to our beachcombing, I can remember trawling antique shops with her and she'd always have her eye out for a new piece of Belleek, if found it would be pounced upon - the disappointment she would have if it was "just a green mark" stamped on the bottom, but unable to resist buying it anyway. 

Shells were not always just decoration for a beach side home as we think of them today, but were part of the collecting of natural curiosities: of taxidermy butterflies and beetles, of botanical illustrations, feathers and minerals, of fossilised ammonites - these things were all the rage during the 18th and 19th Centuries as the knowledge of the formation of our world and the creatures within it were being enlightened by Science. Certainly these little treasures in china have a lasting pull to them, outshining other, more valuable pieces of china and shimmering with their lustre and delicacy in the darkness of a cabinet.

22 comments:

  1. Beautiful pieces! They are so delicate looking! I've never heard of Belleek before, but will now be on the lookout in my antique shop rummagings.
    That Grotto in Margate is amazing!

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    1. It is quite an amazing place... and incredible to think that they still can't work out who built it, and how old it is! xx

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  2. How gorgeous - true works of art. I especially love the pitcher with the wonderful handle!!

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    1. I do love the beautiful coral handles - so fragile though! xx

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  3. I had never heard of that china before. It looks like, between her Ferragamos and these beautiful fine pieces, your mother had very good taste. It's all the genes, then !

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    1. She was a bit of a magpie, and certainly had an eye for the good stuff! xx

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  4. Love the Belleek. Gorgeous.

    Just got my intaglios back from the framer and they look beautiful. Will try and blog about them soon!

    Frantic here with kids home, work and visitors coming and going.

    The shell grotto is amazing - how long must that have taken to do??!

    Hope the Reno going well.

    T
    xxx

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    1. How exciting re Intaglios - def. try to blog about them, would love to see what you've done!!

      Are you on school holidays as well? It's been a busy week here too.... reno has now stalled, bad weather for the next few days and we're waiting for the roofers now. Waiting, waiting, waiting.... I'm certainly practicing patience! xx

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  5. I love shells too ,,, small works or art or is it works of nature?

    I read that Jackie Onassis used the scallop shell as one of her personal symbols on stationary etc.

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    1. They are little works of art I think. Didn't know Jackie O used the scallop shell for her symbol... I wonder what it meant to her? xx

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  6. I have loved shells forever! I also have a shell on my stationery, nice to know that Jackie O and I have one little thing in common...now to get a hideaway in Martha's Vineyard...

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    1. There you go Linda! I'm sure that a house in Martha's Vineyard or island in Greece is coming your way...! xx

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  7. My late Grandmother V had some ancient Belleek with the green shamrocks....I don't know what's become of it. But is was very fine and almost transluscent.

    I love shells so much. I collect them when I go to the beach and I put them in garden beds. My little kid loves them too.

    Belleek is crazy expensive to source. I've never ever seen the pink edged stuff in real life.

    Imagine!

    Have a lovely weekend. x

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    1. You'd love the pink edged Belleek - so pretty. Interestingly when I was photographing some of mum's pieces I found the receipts tucked inside... prices have not risen, despite many pieces being bought 10-20 years ago. xx

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  8. Just catching up on your recent posts after my holiday. I have always admired Belleek and would love to own a tea set but as you say it is very difficult to come across but maybe I should look out for a couple of pieces. Thanks for the information about the markings.
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. You're so close to the source miss B, that I'm sure you'd be able to find some great pieces. xx

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  9. Love them sooooo pretty but very naughty of you to show me as I have a porcelain addiction and must not buy anymore. Packing recently made it more evident! But if I see one now I will be sure to look out for the stamps xx

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    1. I'm still waiting for a post on your Hermes waterlilly china. Please?????!!!!!!! I think that trumps the Belleek quite nicely! xx

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    2. Will do in drips bc now packed away but my collection is erratic and mismatched...now quite so curated like your collection - mine just looks like stuff! X

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  10. One can never be too addicted to porcelain ... I keep telling myself that!.... When I have unpacked again (when will that be?) I want to post on Majolica.. which I love. The Belleek is so delicate and pretty - I love delicate and pretty! Heidi I think it's lovely that you have paid homage to your mother's collection here - not sure my brood would do the same as they are a bit 'modern'!! xx

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    1. I'm sure your children will grow to love your collection too, and the memories they have attached to it and you. And if not, you can always adopt me, as I love Majolica! Can't wait to see your collection.... although it's obviously still a few months off. xx

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  11. Belleek is not bone china. It's parian. That's why a piece made 150 years ago can still look brand new, with no crazing at all, and why you can see your fingers through it when held to the light. You can't do that with bone china.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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